Evidence for Learning: Self-regulation strategies

Self-regulation strategies

The summary below presents the research evidence on self-regulation strategies in the Australasian context.

The Early Childhood Education Toolkit focuses on impact; it presents an estimate of the average impact of communication and language approaches on learning progress, based on the synthesis of a large number of quantitative studies from around the world.

This page offers a summary and analysis of individual Australasian studies on communication and language approaches. In contrast to the Early Childhood Education Toolkit it includes studies which do not estimate impact, but instead investigate the implementation of interventions and how they are perceived by early learning professionals and young learners. This information is valuable for early learning centres interested in finding out more about particular examples of communication and language approaches that have been delivered in Australia and New Zealand.

CoLab (a partnership between Telethon Kids Institute and the Minderoo Foundation) generated this evidence summary in July 2019.

Self-regulation capacities arise from the earliest developmental acquisitions in attention and motor control through emotional and behavioural self-regulation that persists into adulthood. In education, however, self-regulation has come to adopt a special meaning via self-regulated learning’ (SRL; Zimmerman & Martinez-Pons, 1986). SRL involves the motivational, cognitive and behavioural engagement of a student in an academic task. A key capacity that enables SRL is metacognition, knowledge about and capacities to consciously direct one’s own cognitive processes (Tarricone, 2011), which likely builds upon executive functions – capacities to regulate and direct attentional and cognitive processing in general. A meta-analysis of 61 international studies indicated that SRL is particularly linked to academic achievement for children in the first years of schooling (Dent & Koenka, 2016).

Unfortunately, few Australasian SRL-relevant program trials have collected evidence, and most of those have been conducted with older children without control groups (e.g., van Deur, 2008). A Melbourne primary school implementation of metacognitive strategies based on Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats” approach has been described, but not evaluated (Patterson, 2006). Similarly, Colcott, Russell and Skouteris (2008) from Melbourne described a SRL Toolbox for use with early primary-aged students, but did not evaluate the utility of it. A single-classroom trial of a self-regulated story development model (19 lessons of 40 minutes over five weeks) was tested in a group of 6‑year-olds in a single Wellington New Zealand classroom (Finlayson & McCrudden, 2019). Word count and story completeness both improved from baseline, but no comparison group was used, limiting the conclusions one can draw.

Researchers at Telethon Kids Institute in Perth conducted a trial of the self-regulation-focused Alert Program (Williams & Shellenberger, 1996) with early elementary Aboriginal schoolchildren in Fitzroy Valley Western Australia (Wagner et al., 2019), where rates of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder are very high. Teachers were trained to deliver eight one-hour lessons over eight weeks. Significant differences in teacher-ratings of executive function (EF) and behaviour outcomes were found pre and post intervention but again there was no control group and a small number of participants, meaning that the conclusions that can be drawn are limited. No assessment of impact on academic outcomes was reported.

The only randomised controlled trials of a program designed to improve SRL amongst preschool-aged children in Australasia was conducted by researchers from Wollongong (Howard et al., 2016). Researchers tested the efficacy of a children’s picture book that required children to control their thinking to help the main character of the story overcome a series of obstacles. This embedded reading activity was designed to promote EF capacities. Compared with students exposed to passive and active reading activities, children involved in the embedded EF story lessons showed gains in some EF tasks such as working memory and attention shifting, although several of the hypothesised gains in EF were not found to be significant. This study also did not examine academic learning outcomes beyond these aspects of EF.

From this very limited summary of studies, the value of SRL strategies for use with preschool-aged children in Australasia remains unclear. Randomised controlled studies are needed to gauge the impact of such strategies on learning outcomes in early childhood.

Colcott, D., Russell, B., & Skouteris, H. (2009). Thinking about thinking: Innovative pedagogy designed to foster thinking skills in junior primary classrooms. Teacher Development, 13(1), 17 – 27.

Dent, A.L., & Koenka, A.C. (2016). The relation between self-regulated learning and academic achievement across childhood and adolescence: A meta-analysis. Educational Psychology Review, 28, 425 – 474. DOI. 10.1007/s10648-015‑9320‑8

Finlayson, K., & McCrudden, M. T. (2019). Teacher-implemented self-regulated strategy development for story writing with 6‑year-olds in a whole-class setting in New Zealand. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 33(2), 307 – 322. DOI. 10.1080/02568543.2019.1568328

Howard, S.J., Powell, T., Vasseleu, E., Johnstone, S., & Melhuish, E. (2017). Enhancing preschoolers’ executive functions through embedding cognitive activities in shared book reading. Educational Psychology Review, 29, 153 – 174. DOI. 10.1007/s10648-016=9364 – 4.

Paterson, A. (2006). Dr Edward de Bono’s six thinking hats and numeracy. Australian Primary Mathematics Classroom, 11(3), 11 – 15.

Tarracone, P. (2011). The taxonomy of metacognition. New York, NY: Psychology Press.

Van Deur, P. (2008). Assessing the effect of explicit teaching on high reasoning primary students’ knowledge of self-directed learning. Gifted and Talented International, 23(1), 141 – 152.

Wagner, B., Olson, H.C., Symons, M., Mazzucchelli, T.G., Jirilkowic, T., Latimer, J., Watkins, R., Cross, D…. Fitzpatrick, J. (2019). Improving self-regulation and executive functioning skills in primary school children in a remote Australian Aboriginal community: A pilot study of the Alert Program®. Australian Journal of Education, 63(1), 98 – 115. DOI 10.1177÷0004944119826206.

Williams, Kate, McFadden, Amanda, & Nielson, Catherine (2018) Kyabra Limited Hours Childcare Centre: Final Evaluation Report. Queensland University of Technology.

Williams, M. S., & Shellenberger, S. (1996a). How does your engine run?” A leader’s guide to the Alert Program for self-regulation. Albuquerque, NM: TherapyWorks, Inc.

Zimmerman, B. J., & Martinez-Pons, M. (1986). Development of a structured interview for assessing student use of self-regulated learning strategies. American Educational Research Journal, 23, 614 – 628. Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org/stabl/1163093.

  • ERIC
  • Education Source / EBSCO host
  • A+ Education Database

Self-regulation; meta-cognition; metacognition; Australia; New Zealand; early childhood; preschool; kindergarten.